High seas thrills at Dingle Regatta

Marian O'Flaherty

A WONDERFUL weekend played out in West Kerry on Saturday and Sunday as the annual Dingle Regatta brought colour, spectacle and intense naomhog racing competition to the town.

A carnival atmosphere ensued as locals and visitors alike lined the pier and the marina to catch a glimpse of the action as crews from Cumann Ramhaíochta Chorca Dhuibhne battled it out against a strong field of competitors from Maharees, Brandon and two crews from County Clare with Doonbeg and Clarecastle also travelling to Dinge to take part.

Master of Ceremonies Risteard MacLiam was in fine form on Saturday with a schedule of underage races got underway as the next generation of oarsmen and oars-women sharing the spoils winning a fair clutch of races.

Sunday boasted a busy schedule with Dingle taking the first race, the Under-18s, as the action got underway at 2pm.

A poignant moment was shared ahead of the Four-Man Championship of Kerry as a minute's silence was observed in memory of Senator Tom Fitzgerald, a great supporter of the regatta and indeed West Kerry's maritime heritage, who sadly passed away on June 7.

Conor Haughey and members of the Haughey family, including Seán Haughey and Mrs Maureen Haughey, who have been travelling to Dingle to attend the Regatta for years in the proud tradition established by the late Taoiseach Charles J Haughey, then stepped forward to oversee the start of the Men's Four Man Championship of Kerry.

Due to an injury to his finger, Conor Haughey was unable to fire the gun marking the beginning of the race, instead giving instruction to Mike Begley from Cuilneach who got the race underway by firing the opening shot.

After a hard fought battle, the mighty men of the Maharees emerged victorious with Tommy, Declan, Christopher and PJ Griffin the first to make it home, with a bit of distance to spare. The Griffin's trophy cabinet must be heaving at this stage as they have shown great form throughout the season in Baile na nGall, Ceann Trá and their home regatta in Maharees.

Dingle's women were hot on their heels with veteran rowing crew Maunza Heidtke, Elaine Waters, Siobhan O'Connor and Gillian O'Brien giving a display in securing the Four-Hand Women's Championship of Kerry.

Despite a bit of a shower the weather settled and the harbour was calm, providing an ideal platform for some great racing in the Under-12s, the Novice Race, the Local Race, the Fear agus Bean, Mixed Race and a new addition this year, The Gathering Race, which was won by veterans Paddy Kearney and Mary Hussey, proving they still have plenty of petrol in the tank when it came to pulling a naomhóg. Mary's brother John Hussey and Joan Maguire from Dingle were second.

"The Regatta Committee were delighted with the high level of participation over the weekend with crews from Brandon, Maharees, Doonbeg and Clarecastle travelling to Dingle to compete," Ristead MacLiam said. "We were also very happy with the large spectator turnout on both days."

West Kerry's naomhóg racing season will come to a close next weekend as the final local regatta is hosted in Brandon on Sunday.